If you ever tried to learn anything about SEO, you’ve probably noticed that it sometimes seems that it is all about links. You need more links, you need better links, you need diverse links, you need internal links… Links, links, links. Most of the articles on this matter talk about backlinks (links from other websites pointing to your website), and this is a part of SEO that most of website owners are scared of and tend to postpone ’for later’. Mostly because you need to reach out to other website owners, create partnerships and make your company ‘news-worthy’. It is a lot of work and the result is, in most cases, out of your direct control.
But what if we told you that within ‘the universe of SEO links’ there is one sphere that is 100% under your control? We are talking about internal links, or links from one page of your website to another. Yes, they are also important for your website’s SEO and the best part is that it’s you who controls them.
So, why is internal linking important?
Google discovers content online by following links, so adding internal links to a page will ensure that Google bots will find that page more easily and quicker. And the same thing is true for real users, as they usually navigate through your website to fulfil some need or to satisfy some interest. A good internal linkage structure will make sure they’ll find what they are looking for more easily and faster.
Another important point is that through internal links Google understands which pieces of your content are related to each other, and which pages are more important than others on your website. Google’s logic is simple: if a page has more internal links pointing to it, it means that that page is more important on the website, so it will rank better than a page that has fewer internal links pointing to it.
1. This one is quite obvious: make sure that your most important pages get more internal links than your less important pages. A good strategy could be the following: imagine you have a blog where you constantly post content within several categories; or you have an online shop with several categories of products. A page dedicated to a category as a whole is more important than individual pages, and thus it would be beneficial for that general page to rank better than individual posts or products. In order to achieve that you need to link all the individual posts/product pages to the category pages, showing Google that the more general page is the most important and it’s related to all those other ‘smaller’ pages.
2. Show Google that certain pages have the same topic through internal links. You might not have a category page, but you might have several pages with a related topic. By interlinking them, from Google’s point of view, you ‘connect them’. As in the previous point, you may choose the page that is the most important within a topic and point more links to it.
3. If you have just published a new piece of content and you want Google to discover it as quickly as possible, consider adding a direct link to it from your homepage. This way, Google bots will discover your new page directly after entering your site, and it may also give an initial ‘boost’ to a fresh page, as the links from your homepage are the most valuable ones. Google’s thinking is quite straightforward: “if this page is so important for users to find that the website owner added a link to it from the homepage, then it is definitely an important piece of content that I need to pay attention to”. If your new page is really important and you would like to make finding it easier for both users and Google always, and not only while it is ‘your latest post’, consider adding a link to it on your main navigation menu.
4. Add a link from your traffic pages to your conversion pages. This is a classic situation – you add a blog to your website and start producing high-quality content. Google likes your content, so do users, and thus traffic starts pouring in to the website’s blog pages. You are happy at first, but very quickly get disappointed – those users go there for the information only and they do not buy what you are really selling ‘outside the blog part of your website’! Well, it may well be that those users in fact came to your website just for the information, but you should still try to sell them your products or services. You may ‘gently warm them up’ along the content of the page by subtly hinting that you may have what they are looking for, and finish by suggesting them to check out your products/services page with a well placed link to top it off. This way some part of the traffic that enters through your informational pages, will not leave your website once they finish reading your article, but will rather go directly to the optimised-for-conversion sales page and, who knows, maybe buys something, as they trust you more now after you showed them your expertise in the informational page.
1. Do not exaggerate the number of links, keep it reasonable. In this case the straight forward logic of ‘the more, the better’ does not apply, per se. First of all, the more links the page has, the less ‘value’ it passes through to each one of the other pages. Secondly, having too many badly organised links can create a bad navigation experience for users and may become a spam signal for search engines.
2. Do not over optimise the anchor texts (texts where you put a link). While it is a good practice to make anchor texts informational and use some keywords in them (after all, users should understand which content they are going to see if they click on the link), over-optimised anchor texts packed with keywords are one of the spam signs that Google looks for. Keep your anchors natural.
3. Do not leave orphan pages. Orphan pages are pages of the website that have no links pointing to them, so users cannot find them while browsing the website. The reason is very obvious – if you want a page to be found, make sure there are links pointing to it. Orphan pages often appear by mistake, when the website owner creates a new page, publishes it, but forgets to add it to the website’s navigation. There is, however, one exception to this rule: landing pages that are used specifically for paid advertising campaigns. These usually have a special offer or promotion and they are not supposed to be found on the website. In fact, most site owners even block them from indexing, and rightly so. So, if your orphan page is a landing page for ads, leave it as it is.
4. Do not build deep website structures. This ‘don´t’ is more for users than for Google’s benefit, but as the latter is interested in making the first ones happy, we can assume Google will also be happy if you avoid creating deep structures on your website’s navigation. A good rule of thumb is: every page of your website should be reachable in no more than three clicks from your homepage. Users are used to getting what they want quickly and easily, and they will not patiently click through five or six unnecessary pages to get to the info they need. They will simply close your website, go back to Google search, and find an easier alternative.
And these are our tips and strategies regarding internal linking. Now, is it enough to work on internal links for your SEO and forget about backlinks? Of course not!
These are two different areas within your SEO plan, and you should (must) work on both of them. But internal linking is something that you need to plan and define your strategy just once. Then just follow it and you will definitely notice the difference.